First Day of Offroad to the Temple District

16 Feb

By Gary

Fun road yesterday.  We left Stung Treng in the morning on the way to Tbaeng Meanchey.  A couple of the guys bikes have been developing a cold start problem.  One of them was solved by adjusting the valves, but the other not so much.  We bought a a couple sockets to do nightly valve adjustments just for good measure since we are riding these scooters wide-open in top gear for hours on end.  Paul’s bike might have burnt valves though – his cold start problem continues to just get worse.

The road was new.  So new it isn’t complete.  Not even close 🙂  It looks like it will be a decent highway at some point but at the moment it is bladed and compacted earth.  It had many kilometers of perfectly flat wide sections that might as well have been an 8 lane highway.  But of course it is dirt.  They can probably get away with that in the dry season pretty effectively.  When the rains come it will probably turn into a mud pit though.  There were a few short sections of deep sand and a couple very narrow deep rutted areas.  At the transition of one of these, sand to hard packed ruts, Rocinante bucked me off and took a little dirt nap.  At about 70km/hr we came up to a sharp ledge about curb height and those little tires and archaic suspension did not take it well.  She managed the tumble quite well though – she escaped with a cracked front fender and I just got a tiny bit of dirt rash on my left love handle.  That was the only part of me sticking out from my protective gear <blush>.   These little scooters really are bulletproof.  They have to be at least 30 years old and they are taking the punishment we are dishing out admirably.

We stayed in Tbaeng Meanchey at a gob smackingly fantastic place for $16/night for a double.  Unbelieveable to stay here for $8.  In the U.S. they could just name their price.  Hand carved hard wood throughout, marble floors, high ceilings – just unbelievable.  We had to tour around the city for an hour or so to find it, but very glad we did.

The little Cambodian kids are adorable. I want to just throw a few in my suitcase and bring them back – they are living in some pretty dirty conditions and are obviously so poor – but they are all smiles and happy. One of the girls at the ‘restaurant’ we ate at spoke a little English (they have an english school here) but she kept getting really frustrated when she couldn’t understand me. I just motioned with my hands to calm down and I found in the shop what I was looking for and pointed to it and said again “RICE”. She was *so* pleased to have learned a new word and to be able to communicate. 😉 I am learning a tiny bit of Khmer too.

The dogs here live a rough life. Many of them are so thin they look like little walking skeletons. The ones that have any meat on them at all are usually nursing and just have teets hanging down. We were feeding three of them table scraps last night and we had a lot of scraps. Between everyone at the table there were six whole (small) chickens. The dogs were happy to get the feet and heads and fatty bits and bones. But at the end of the night I guess they had a little turf war out in the street – must have had enough energy to waste it on fighting after all those table scraps. Well it was pretty dark and they were fighting in a roundabout , and a local on a scooter just like ours rounded the bend and slammed on what little brakes these things have but still ran into one of them and dumped the bike in the middle of the road. The dog ran off and seemed ok but the guy was pretty out of it – he must have hit his head pretty hard.  They don’t wear protective gear around here and most, like that guy, don’t even wear a helmet.

Today we are headed to see some of the temples in the North and then will head south to Siem Reap and meet up with Frank and John.  Several of us would really like to head up to the Thai border and visit one of the temples that are the source of a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia.  Thailand is no longer shelling Cambodia in the disputed territory and I forget the name of the temple, but they are serious enough to have fired shots over it as recently as a year ago.  The temples here are quite spectacular and honestly sort of a dime-a-dozen, so that one must be pretty special to be so hotly contested.

However, the way to Siem Reap is just loaded with temples, so we will be stopping to see a few.  I am certain none of us will be clean enough to go inside after the hundred or so kms of dirt we will be doing to get there.  But it will be nice to see them from the outside.

Building up the ramp for the ferry from Stung Treng


Chaos of the ferry for the Ride for Cambodia team


Gary and Laurence are happy to be off the major roads


The new road to Tbeng Meanchey, Preah Vihear. This was some good riding


Gary explaining the crash to the guys after he picked up his bike (only a little damage to front fender)


We're all looking a little bit dusty after today's ride


Gary made it in without injury and is happy to be sitting on something not a Daelim


Sam is all smiles after finding the lady who not only speaks english but also s
ells beer.


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